BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Ross and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2001-123, 2001-124

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • M R Ross
Number
2001-123–124
Programme
Nine to Noon
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
National Radio

Complaint
National Radio – Nine to Noon – book reading from novel "Baby No-Eyes" – broadcast repeated – explicit sex instruction from young boy to sister – bad taste

Findings
Principle 1 – material not offensive in context – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

A reading from the novel "Baby No-Eyes" by Patricia Grace was broadcast on National Radio’s Nine to Noon show, beginning at 10.30am on a weekday during April or May 2001. The broadcast was repeated at the same time on the following day.

M R Ross complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that she was "horrified" to hear "an explicit sex instruction from a young boy to his little sister" during a book reading she said was broadcast on 9 May 2001, and then repeated on 10 May 2001.

RNZ did not uphold the complaints. It maintained that the broadcasts Mrs Ross had specified did not contain the material about which she complained. RNZ added that it was unlikely that the complaints would have been upheld even if the correct broadcasts had been identified.

Dissatisfied with RNZ’s decision, Mrs Ross referred the complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaints.

Decision

The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix and have read an extract from the book to which these complaints relate. The Authority determines these complaints without a formal hearing.

The Programme

A reading from the novel "Baby No-Eyes" by Patricia Grace was broadcast on National Radio’s Nine to Noon show, beginning at 10.30am on a weekday during April or May 2001. The broadcast was repeated at the same time on the following day.

The Complaints

M R Ross complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that she was "horrified" to hear "an explicit sex instruction from a young boy to his little sister" during a book reading she said was broadcast on 9 May 2001, and then repeated on 10 May 2001.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

RNZ did not uphold the complaints, as the broadcasts Mrs Ross had specified did not contain the material she complained about.

The Referral to the Authority

Dissatisfied with RNZ’s decision, Mrs Ross referred the complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. When she referred the complaints, Mrs Ross attached an extract from the book which she described as "almost verbatim as used in the broadcast". She expressed surprise that RNZ had not located the material itself.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

In its response to the Authority, RNZ, in effect, addressed the substance of the complaint. In doing so, it explained that while RNZ respected the opinions of listeners like Mrs Ross, it also had to consider other listeners and the expectation of writers that their work will be used without amendment or modification. RNZ then described the book’s themes which it said could not be viewed as indecent or in poor taste, and noted that it was available in public libraries.

RNZ said that while it appreciated that Mrs Ross found parts of the book offensive:

on balance we find that what was broadcast on the days she complains of and indeed the remaining episodes of the book reading, to fall well short of what it is that might breach the standard of good taste and decency.

The Authority’s Determination

First, the Authority notes the unhelpful manner in which RNZ dealt with these complaints. The broadcaster declined to uphold Mrs Ross’ complaints on the basis that the broadcasts identified did not contain the material about which she complained. The Authority does not consider that it would have been unduly onerous for RNZ to have identified the correct broadcasts and then determined the complaints accordingly.

Turning to the substance of the complaints, the Authority does not consider that the broadcasts breached standards of good taste and decency. The reading Mrs Ross complained about was an episode of a book reading. The material complained about did not threaten to breach Principle 1, in the context of a book reading broadcast during weekday mornings, to a target audience which does not include children and at a time children would not reasonably be expected to be listening to the radio.

 

For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaints.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
18 October 2001

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

  1. M R Ross’ Formal Complaints to Radio New Zealand Ltd – 21 May 2001
  2. RNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaints – 29 June 2001
  3. Mrs Ross’ Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (plus attachments) – 9 July 2001
  4. RNZ’s Response to the Authority – 2 August 2001
  5. Mrs Ross’ Response to the Referral – 21 August 2001
  6. RNZ’s Further Letter to the Authority – 23 August 2001